The educators in childcare services: the angels forgotten ?
PhD in sociology, University of Montreal
There are many cases since the beginning of the pandemic COVID-19 the shortage of staff in health care facilities. It ran about 10,000, according to the latest figures : employees sick, or not wanting to put their health at risk.
With the déconfinement gradual, another crisis is emerging : the one of the daycare workers. While Quebec opened, as of Monday, the custody services in all regions — and two weeks later in Montreal — more than 6,000 of them have already reported that they were not going to work, or would simply not their childcare service in a family environment.
Poorly paid, poorly valued and no premium
This new crisis highlights the reality of these educators, particularly those working in the private sector : poorly paid and little valued. Revealing fact : those who have worked in recent weeks in the CPE kept open, to allow priority workers to keep their children, have been entitled to no risk premium, in spite of repeated requests of the trade unions and the opposition.
How is it possible that child care services are essential to the point to remain open during the pandemic, the déconfinement progressive is dependent on their availability, but that the people on the front line with children do not receive too little recognition ? As a postdoctoral researcher in sociology and expert on family policy in quebec, this is the question that I ask myself since the beginning of this crisis.
According to figures dating back to march 2019 the ministry of the Family, 64% of children aged 0 to 4 years attend daycare or preschool 4 years.
With the outbreak of the pandemic, only the environments offering subsidised places have been authorized to offer emergency services. Parents working in the essential services that the children attended a child care centre that is not subsidised have had to opt for a new day care service from 3 April. It is, therefore, 23 % of the places that have evaporated, but probably even more, since the families funded were given the opportunity to continue to provide services, but only on a voluntary basis.
That should take care of the children in a time of crisis ?
In the space of a few days, the social norm that consists of sending a preschool-age child in child care services has been reversed 180 degrees, the occupancy rate of the CPE hovering around 4 %. Evoking social network, ” a question of health and of respect for our educators, the provision of services for essential workers was accompanied by a request on several fora by the minister of the family Mathieu Lacombe, is their use as a last resort.
It is without doubt in the same spirit as workers yet considered essential, such as employees of the société des transports de Montréal (STM), or the construction workers from the 20th of April, have not had access to childcare services emergency.
In a context where children are kept at home for an indefinite period of time, while the parents are trying to continue their professional activities, to which the responsibility for the work of social reproduction, which is to ensure the well-being, security, development and the development of the children is the responsibility of ? The government, in the workplace or to the parents ?
The decline of the gender equality
In Quebec, as in all developed societies, the participation of women in the labour market is directly linked to the availability of childcare services and to the social acceptability of their use. Equality between men and women depends, in large part, of the “dématernalisation” of care, by leading a part of the work of social reproduction outside of the family unit.
But what happens when these services are not available or when their use is limited ? We can easily assume that the period of pause leads to a maternalisation ” increased the labour of social reproduction. In academic circles, an article) circulates on the dramatic fall in the proportion of women who submit their research for publication in scholarly journals… at the same time to an increase of the productivity of men.
With the crisis that may last for months, the fog surrounding the process of re-opening of child care services, and the fact that 43 % of those responsible for childcare services in a family environment considering putting the key under the door, the division is not gendered work of social reproduction risk to take a hit. Data from the general social Survey on time use showed already before the pandemic, significant inequalities between men and women in time spent on household tasks and the care of the children.
A missed opportunity
The crisis of the COVID-19 seemed conducive to a recognition of the value of the work of social reproduction. Never the work of educators has not been as important. Never this work has not been as risky and full of challenges. Never, paradoxically, there has been too little recognized.
Would we be witnessing a return sneaky and pernicious to the conservative values that identify the family — particularly the mother — as being in the best position to provide care in times of crisis ?
Like the establishment of premiums by the government for the personnel deployed against the virus, a number of private companies, in particular grocery, have rapidly increased the salaries of their employees to compensate them for the risks incurred. Why not have made this choice for educators, including the provision of service is linked to the availability of health workers and the restart of the economy by enabling parents, and particularly mothers, to return to work ?
This lack of valuation of the work highly essential carried out by the educators does not bode well for the future, if we rely on the lessons that are emerging with the crisis of the CHSLD. The likely absence of 6 000 educators in day care services, which is preparing to reopen, as is the lack of staff in NURSING homes, we will help may be to finally take conscience of the importance and value of the work of care performed by women, too, often free of charge or against a small salary.
Too bad this is the most vulnerable, children and seniors, who are paying the price.
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This text first appeared on the website of the franco-canadian of The Conversation. Reproduced with permission.